A place to back up and store all your home photos, movies, and music, with access to them from anywhere. That's the idea behind Hewlett-Packard's MediaSmart server, which the company said can be preordered now.
HP described the server as "a central, safe location to keep the entire family's digital media and files with easy access from any networked PC, in or outside the home." Using additional software such as HP's Photo Webshare, consumers can create a photo Web site for sharing with family and friends over the Internet.
The unit is expected to begin shipping later this month, priced at $599 with 500 GB of or $749 with 1 TB. It is the first such device from a major vendor to run Microsoft's Windows Home Server (WHS) software, which officially launched on Monday.
Windows Home Server
When WHS was first presented at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, there was considerable media interest in it and in the HP home server. The software enables automatic backup, restore, file sharing, and access to the Web for as many as 10 Windows XP or Windows Vista PCs with an Ethernet or wireless connection. It also monitors the wellbeing of attached PCs, and can stream media to a TV, Xbox 360, or other devices.
The possibility of a new category of device for the home, backed by the world's number one software maker and major computer companies, grabbed a fair share of media attention. But at the time of its announcement, WHS software was not ready for primetime, and HP awaited the final release of WHS before releasing the MediaSmart home server, which had reportedly been scheduled for a September or October launch.
According to news reports, one of the key problems with WHS was the ability to configure the router for remote access, which the HP server needed for sharing files.
Is Consumer Ready?
The key question from many observers is whether consumers are ready for a centralized file repository. Josh Martin, an analyst with Yankee Group, said people are beginning to understand the need for backup. Until recently, he said, "it's been an interesting product category, defined largely by products without an intuitive user interface."
He noted that, in addition to the HP media server being designed for backup, it is also positioned as "a home solution for your content," with remote access. The question is how to make a home repository more mainstream, he said, as remote access to content is probably a small market for now.
Other companies are planning to release Windows Home Server products. Fujitsu Siemens Computer is releasing its SCALEO Home Server 1900 later this year, with 1 TB of capacity, Gigabit Ethernet, and power-management features.
Iomega released more about its own forthcoming home server, shipping in early 2008 with a 500-GB hard drive and several "easy-swap" drive bays for expansion. Also in 2008, Lifeware's Lifestorage server will give -class capabilities to home users.
WHS servers are planned from Medion, Tranquil, Velocity Micro, Ace Computers, Advantec, PC Club, Universal Systems, Gateway, LaCie, and others.